Gallery: Where in Suffolk will Tour of Britain visit during its East Anglia stage?
Britain’s most prestigious cycling event returns to Suffolk this year when more than a hundred top riders are expected to race through the county as thousands of cheering spectators watch from towns and villages along the route.
The Friends Life Tour of Britain confirmed today that the penultimate and longest stage of the event would be held in East Anglia for the first time since 2012, when the region hosted the Grand Depart.
Stage seven on Saturday, September 12, will see a some of the sport’s biggest names pass through Bury St Edmunds; Stowmarket; Needham Market; Hadleigh and East Bergholt before racing under the Orwell Bridge and into Ipswich town centre for the finish. Starting at Fakenham Racecourses, the 225km stage will also pass through Alysham, Norwich, Wymondham, Attleborough and Thetford in Norfolk.
Competitors for this year’s event are yet to be announced but former entrants include Mark Cavendish, who holds the record for the most modern stage victories and Sir Bradley Wiggins, who won gold at the London Olympic Games in 2012 and the Tour de France in the same year.
Cycling in Suffolk, as well as nationally, has grown in popularity over recent years, spurred on by the British team’s success at the Olympics and maintained with several high profile events.
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The inaugural Women’s Tour visited the region twice in May 2014; travelling between Felixstowe and Clacton for stage three and then returning for the final leg from Harwich to Bury St Edmunds.
Suffolk is also set to feature in this year’s women’s event, which begins in Bury St Edmunds and crosses the county to Aldeburgh on the coast. Stage two will see the riders make their way from Braintree to Clacton.
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Suffolk County Council estimated the Tour’s visit in 2012 boosted the economy by around £1 million.
Alan Murray, who is responsible for health at the council, said 2015, which was recently launched as Suffolk’s Year of Cycling “promises to be a landmark year” for the sport.
“The spectacle of seeing our Olympic Champions race out of Ipswich in 2012 was inspirational and I have no doubt that the opportunity to watch the world’s best cyclist’s race into Ipswich for the finish of the penultimate stage of the 2015 Tour of Britain will create great excitement and draw huge crowds,” he added.
Joseph Young, project co-ordinator of Cycle Suffolk, which promotes the sport in the county, said the Tour announcement “adds to the profile of cycling in Suffolk”.
“It’s an event that’s going to capture people’s imagination and will hopefully start conversations among people and give them the idea that they can cycle as well,” he added.
Suffolk drinks company Adnams has been announced as the principal partners to the East Anglia stage.
Adnams marketing director Emma Hibbert said the company was “proud” to be the official beer of the stage.
Race director Mick Bennett of organisers SweetSpot said he was pleased to be returning to an area where there would be “tremendous support at the roadside”.
“In the past we have seen some of the race’s biggest ever crowds in the two counties, so are sure this September will prove to be no different,” he added.
Region welcomes sporting spectacle
Communities along the Tour route have met the news of its return with excitement.
St Edmundsbury mayor, and keen cyclist, Robert Everitt said he was looking forward to the “razzmatazz” of the event.
“I’m very pleased this will be happening in Bury again and I’m sure the crowds will turn out in their thousands to give all the riders a warm welcome and cheer them on their way,” he added.
Gerard Brewster, the mayor of Stowmarket, said he was “thrilled” to hear of the town’s inclusion.
“I’m sure, knowing Stowmarket, the town will rise to the occasion and I’m convinced there will be a great turn out on the day,” he added.
Needham Market’s mayor, Steve Phillips, said the Tour’s visit was “extremely good news” for the town and its businesses.
“Hopefully it will bring more people into the town that we would normally expect. The Lakes are always very popular and if we can build on that it would be great.”
In Hadleigh, town councillor Jan Byrne said the Tour’s last visit was “great fun”.
“People certainly enjoyed it last time and I’m sure they will again,” she added.
East Bergholt’s parish clerk Valerie Ayton said the Women’s Tour had been very popular in the village when it visited last year and she would be encouraging people to line the streets once again.
Bryony Rudkin, who is responsible for culture at Ipswich Borough Council, said it would be a “great day” for the town and she was sure there will he a “big turn out in support”.
“Ipswich is becoming an established cycling centre at all levels – we also have the return of the Sky Ride and the Crafted Classique this summer,” she added.